History of the Department

English and American literary studies rank among long-established disciplines at the Faculty of Arts: the origins can be traced back to the 1880s. The Prague English department, the oldest one in the Czech Lands, was founded in 1912 by Vilém Mathesius, since 1909 an Associate Professor of English language and literature and a key figure of the Prague Linguistic Circle. Mathesius taught both linguistic and literary courses. The Mathesius Award for best theses defended at the department is named in his honour. Other notable Prague experts in English and American literature include Otakar Vočadlo, René Wellek, Zdeněk Vančura, Zdeněk Stříbrný, Jaroslav Hornát, and Radoslav Nenadál. The Scottish poet, critic, and translator Edwin Muir taught at the department in the late 1940s, as part of his cooperation with the British Council in Prague, and received an honorary doctorate from Charles University.

After 1970, the new Communist leaders, installed after the Warsaw Pact invasion, started their ideological purges: O. Vočadlo, Z. Stříbrný and J. Hornát were not allowed to conduct their classes at Charles any more. Vočadlo retired, Stříbrný was offered a less significant position of a translator at the Faculty of Mathematics, Hornát could only open courses in English drama at the School of Dramatic Arts. In the mid-1970s another English literature expert and translator of Anglophone literature, Jarmila Emmerová, was transfered to the Department of Translation Studies. During the 1970s the department also lost its independent status and was incorporated into the Department of Germanic Studies as one of its sections. Miroslav Jindra served as the head of the English studies section in 1976-1988. Contacts with the English-speaking countries, such as conferences and guest lectures, were also drastically restricted. In 1987, it became possible for the section to emancipate itself again as a proper department and a new head, Martin Hilský, was appointed in 1988.

After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, new members could join the department and international contacts were re-established. In 1990-1993, Jiří Hanuš, Jan Starý, and Miloš Calda taught literary seminars and Zdeněk Hron and František Fröhlich joined the department as external lecturers in literary translation. The interest in the English studies has grown significantly, which among others prompted the re-organization of the curriculum and its division into BA and MA  programmes by Martin Procházka who became department head in 1998.

The journal Litteraria Pragensia: Studies in Literature and Culture emerged in 1991 when its predecessor, Philologica Pragensia, split into two separate periodicals (the other being Linguistica Pragensia). Since 2002 the imprint Litteraria Pragensia Books has been publishing monographs and essay collections.

The Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures was created in 2008, when the original Department of English and American Studies split into two separate but cooperating departments (offering two BA programmes together), the other one being the Department of English Language and ELT Methodology.

One of the greatest events in the recent history of the department was the Ninth World Shakespeare Congress, held in Prague on 17-22 July 2011. The congress was initiated by Zdeněk Stříbrný and organized jointly by Charles University and the National Theatre, the congress director being Martin Procházka. It hosted about 600 participants and featured kenyote speakers such as Stanley Wells, Marjorie Garber, Djanet Sears, and Martin Hilský. Keynote lectures and performances took place at the National Theatre and at the Estate Theatre in Prague.

We have been the proud hosts of talks and readings by writers from around the world such as Joseph Heller, Seamus Heaney, Muriel Spark, John Tranter, Derek Mahon, Janet Turner-Hospital, David Lodge, Michael Longley, William Golding, Gavin Ewart, Gail Jones, Tom McCarthy, Medbh McGuckian, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Alan Titley, Biddy Jenkinson, and Alan Spence.

We have also received a wide variety of guest lecturers including Wolfgang Iser, J. Hillis Miller, Sacvan Bercovitch, Derek Attridge, Robert J.C. Young, Carlo Ginzburg, R.F. Foster, Luke Gibbons, Jerome McGann, Christoph Bode, Aleks Sierz, Murray Pittock, Christopher Innes, Bonnie Kime Scott, Elisabeth Archibald, Edna Longley, Joep Leerssen, Margaret Kelleher, Patricia Coughlan, Claire Connolly, Michael Cronin, David Cowart, Margery Palmer McCulloch, Christopher Whyte, Hugh J. Silverman, Matthew Roudané, Declan Kiberd, and David Duff.

  • find out more about research at the department

Overviews of the most important publications, conferences, events, and guest lectures are available from the pages of the individual research sections/centres:

Heads of department

Notable alumni

The Sense of Continuity: Prague English Studies 1929-2014

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